Better Trains Foster Energy Independence

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is calling for the country to move swiftly to a system of high-speed rail travel, saying it will relieve congestion, help clean the air and save on energy…
news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090416/ap_on_go_pr_wh/obama_rail

I don’t see this taking off very well in this country unless they find a way to drastically reduce the cost of a ticket. Anybody price out a ticket for Amtrak lately? :eek:

It’s often cheaper and FASTER to fly.

Well I do on occassion take a train to St. Louis from Chicago. It takes me 5 hours and it costs around $30… I can work while on the train.

However we only have Amtrak and the network of rails is small so it is inconvenient.

I also live and work in Germany… I can go just about anywhere through Germany and Europe by rail.

That’s mainly because Amtrak has turned into a vacation service, or a novelty trip. It isn’t more expensive than driving in the places where people can actually use it for commuting. If we actually build a working light rail system across the country, it will get much cheaper.

Personally, I think this is a great idea. Dismantling the rail systems was a bad idea in the first place, although its hard to blame anyone back when it happened, because the problems we face today weren’t even on the horizon.

Who knows? Depending on where I wind up teaching, I might not need a car by the time it comes to buy one (although that would require me teaching in a city, where I might not need a car right now).

whitehouse.gov/assets/images/rail_map_blog.jpg
Click to enlarge (PDF file)

Plan details are here:
http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/31

[LEFT]Unprecedented $8 billion investment in high-speed rail: $8 billion in ARRA considered a down payment on a national network of corridors, along with $1 billion per year for at least 5 years (proposed in FY 2010 budget). Completion of vision will require long‐term commitment from both the Federal Government and States. [/LEFT]

Is this really the best way of spending the funds? :shrug:

I live in the Southwest, this won’t help us in fly over country one bit.

The area of the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) is 9,161,923 km2, while the area of Europe is 3,788,027 km2. The United States is almost two and a half times the size of the European Union. Texas is larger than the country of France.

Gas costs over 3 times as much in Europe. The difference is taxes. If it we had equal gas costs, their rail system would not be cost efficient (I’m not sure it is even with the unequal gas costs).

Imagine the amount of jobs this will create. If we make it a national effort (citizen, government and business) we could accomplish this.

Do not look at the short run costs but look at the long run benifits. A train can go 450 miles on a gallon of diesel. Imagine the savings we could just from buying less oil from those terrorist sponsering countries? We then can invest in biodiesel production here in the U.S. and our farmers would love it.

I believe that rail can replace commuter flying over all. Long hauls would be up to the airlines.

And not too many people in Europe care about the cost of fuel because they drive diesel powered automotbiles and have a great rail way system

It’s a great idea. But the government should keeps it’s paws out of it. Lower rates, more routes, and it could be a solvent business. The problem is that it is so limited, as mentioned, once you get to your destination what do you do? Walk 30 blocks?

They drive more diesel powered autos because there is less of a tax on diesel. The coutries are subsidizing diesel and trains, and penalizing gas. The difference is made up by higher taxes overall and higher costs overall.

I agree. The proposed high speed rail is probably best for replacing short air trips between large cities, such as the Chicago to St. Louis route. Those of us who don’t live near such large cities won’t benefit the from the proposal. (Although Dubuque would love to get back its Amtrak service to Chicago.)

Couldn’t have said it better myself. 'bout sums it up.

And you make a great point. Why would I pay for a ticket to take the train to commute to Pittsburgh (just an example of a close city by me) when I have to turn around and pay to rent a car to get where I need to go. I might as well drive my car.

Some cities have great public transportation. Most don’t. And most don’t have safe public transportation.

We’ve got a long way to go before we’ll convince Americans to take the train rather than drive.

SO if I want to go from Omaha to Kansas City, I can take a detour to the Quad Cities on the other side of Iowa? I think I’ll drive. It would be great to go to Lincoln, Des Monies, Chicago, St. Louis, and Denver. A bit of a pain to go to Kansas City Minneapolis or Oklahoma City. It would be useless to go anywhere in Nebraska, besides what is next to I-80, or to places like St. Joseph Mo., Sioux City, S.D, Sioux Falls S.D.

I don’t want to say its a bad idea, but it is a challenging problems to make it be a worthwhile national project and not just regional. The further out west you go in the Midwest and West, the population isn’t that dense. The best you can get is big city to big city, but then one would likely have to rent a car.

One may be having to pick between wasting a lot of money and running the train when there is next to no one on it. On the other hand you could have it not waste money by matching to passenger use, but you will have the problem of people not considering it as option with it not being operation when one needs or wants to go somewhere. If you want to change the automobile culture of the less populated areas, you are in for a challenge.

As far as jobs, that money used could create a lot of jobs. We could create a lot of jobs, by telling everyone that they can no longer have a car made before 2009. In effect that would create a lot of jobs, but it would take a whole lot of money out of every one’s budget. At the same time, whatever estimated value of those banned cars would be gone. Job creation may sounds great, but its going to take money away from other things. Should we take it out of education, health care, or defense? Net economic impact is going to be more important than job creation, for that matter, net jobs would be a better measure than new jobs.

I tried to do that traveling to Chicago, but, it was expensive and not that convenient.

I would use public transportation if it came close enough I could walk to it. And, if panhandlers weren’t allowed to bum around the stops and intimidate us and our children.

Instead of lowering the price so even the poor can use it, they jack up the price, and have the government hand out tokens. Thus, fewer people use it, making it not profitable. They then decrease the routes, decreasing the number of riders.

If a person could ride the bus with plenty of stop times, and board the train at hours that were reasonable (instead of once or twice a day), and there were at least shuttles to the public transport or parking areas, I think everyone would use it.

The high-speed train comes through Indianapolis either early in the morning or late at night. It makes no sense to use it. Not for the price they are asking. And there is no viable way to get to the station, downtown, where the homeless like to hang out.

It is as if clueless morons are in charge of it all. I appreciate that not enough people use it to make it otherwise, but, how would they know if they never tried?

If the government “keeps its paws out of it”, it won’t happen. I can say this confidently because it hasn’t happened, despite nearly a decade of rising gas prices. This is the sort of thing that only government can start, because it requires a huge initial investment, and won’t be profitable right off the bat. It also requires that the systems be integrated and compatible; look at the staggering start that early railroads got off to, because different companies used different gauges. You won’t get a national system for a very long time unless its done by the government, or by some massive conglomerate run by a man who is willing to dedicate his life’s work to building compatible railroads across the nation.

It doesn’t seem like the man exists, but it needs to be done. Therefore, the government.

I live in Chicago. I do not haheve a problem. My wife before we had children she worked in the Loop. First two months she drove into the office. It took her over hour and half to get to the office. We live 40 miles out.

Between the cost of gas, parking, wear and tear, and the rapid devaluation of the car, we decided that taking Metra was cheaper.

She paid I think $135 for a monthly pass, then another X amount of $'s for a bus fair. It saved us a ton of money, safer than driving and less stress on her, especially when she was carrying our first child.

It is a bit disappointing reading people disqualifying it now based on what we have now. Sure it would not work if we had the current system. Why not make it better and plan it right, instead of just throwing it out the window because it will cost money to invest and time and planning?

Why are we becoming more afraid to be innovative?

Light rail would be a ridiculous in the Oklahoma City area. Our business district is spread all over the city. Most folks don’t even work downtown.
Car pooling might work if more of us who worked in the same areas knew other people who lived the 20 minute drive to my office. And most of us don’t have to pay to park.
Our bus system is impossible too.

I would personally like to see rail travel return. But it would take a whopping amount of subsidy for it to work. At one time, passenger trains (or even just cars) were so frequent and so fluid that my father and his sisters, as kids, used to take a train to go just five miles to visit grandparents in another town. Towns were originally built along railways in a lot of places, particularly west of the Mississippi. Local travel from there would, of course, create a whole new set of problems.

I recall my grandmother used to go on shopping trips more than 200 miles away. One-day trips. She would get on an early train, travel to St. Louis. Back then, every store you could ever want to go to was downtown in St. Louis, and you could walk to many from the main station, or catch a streetcar or cab if you wanted. Then she would catch an afternoon train back. She would arrive with all her stuff and well rested. Those old trains really moved, and I doubt one could beat them by driving. St. Louis is built differently now, of course, and you would have to go miles and miles from downtown to the places you perhaps most wanted to shop. I’m sure that’s true of just about every city now.

But again, it was all subsidized; not by the government directly, but by freight traffic. The government forced railroad companies to have passenger traffic, so the freight people paid the “subsidy”. It would take a huge subsidy of one kind or another to really make passenger travel work again. That’s really the reason AMTRAK struggles so. It requires subsidies. I understand all rail traffic in Europe is subsidized heavily by the government.

I might add that highway traffic is also heavily subsidized. So is air travel. It’s not whether you subsidize, it’s how and what you subsidize when it comes to transportation.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.